London - A jury in northern England got a surprise at the
trial of a Roman Catholic priest accused of sexually assaulting a teenage girl:
The cleric has been secretly married for more than a decade.
The Bradford Telegraph and Argus quoted defence lawyer
Jeremy Hill-Baker as saying that jurors at Bradford Crown Court could be forgiven
if they thought that Father William Finnegan's vow of celibacy had left him
lonely, sad and sexually frustrated.
But Hill-Baker said that was not the case, and jurors
would hear evidence from the 59-year-old Finnegan and his wife, Beverley
Dawson, that the pair had been "deeply in love”.
"No, you didn't mishear me. His wife,"
Hill-Baker said, explaining that the couple wed secretly in 1999.
Dawson told the court that Finnegan would visit her after
finishing church services each Sunday, then go back to work on Tuesday.
Of course being married, in itself, does not prevent a
man from committing sexual assault.
Finnegan denied forcefully kissing and touching the
bottom of a 17-year-old girl, but the jury on Friday found him guilty of sexual
The charge carries a maximum 10-year sentence.
Judge Roger Thomas told Finnegan he would give "a
lot of thought" about the sentence he would get on 11 April.